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BBC sexual abuse crisis deepens as new allegations emerge

posted 22 Oct 2012, 06:34 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 Oct 2012, 06:35 ]

A crisis gripping Britain's BBC deepens after more revelations about alleged sexual abuse by one-time TV star Jimmy Savile.

 LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (OCTOBER 22, 2012) (POOL) - A crisis gripping Britain's BBC deepened on Monday (October 22) after it emerged a senior producer had warned the broadcaster could be accused of a cover-up when it axed its own expose into alleged sexual abuse by a one-time TV star.

Allegations that flamboyant BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who died last year, operated unhindered as a paedophile for years while working for the BBC have rocked the publicly funded broadcaster.

Its new Director General George Entwistle is now under pressure to explain why the BBC dropped an investigation by its Newsnight programme into Savile last year. Mark Thompson, now the New York Times Co's chief executive, was in charge of the BBC at the time.

The BBC's Panorama programme, due to air in Britain on Monday night, is expected to give details of how much information the Newsnight team had on Savile at the time.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Entwistle avoided answering questions about whether he thought it was wrong for the BBC to have pulled the Newsnight programme.

"I'm afraid I can't make any comment on the Panorama because I haven't seen it yet. But there will be a BBC statement later this morning, touching on some of the issues raised. I will of course be taking questions at the culture select committee tomorrow. And then there are the two independent reviews that we've set up, one looking at Jimmy Savile's activities over the past decades and the Pollard review looking at exactly what happened on Newsnight and I expect to make a full contribution to those," Mr Entwistle said.

Newsnight reporter Liz Mackean has told the programme she feels the BBC has been misleading.

"Ever since the decision was taken to shelve our story, I've not been happy with public statements made by the BBC. I think they're very misleading about the nature of the investigation we were doing," she said.

A Newsnight producer behind the investigation, Meirion Jones, said he had warned his editor that the BBC was at risk of being accused of a cover-up if it did not run the story.

"I was sure the story would come out one way or another and that, if it did, the BBC would be accused of a cover-up. In fact I wrote an email to Peter saying, "The story is strong enough and the danger of not running it is substantial damage to BBC reputation"," he told the programme.

Knighted as a "Sir" by Queen Elizabeth, cigar-chomping Savile was one of the BBC's biggest names and most recognised television personalities, and questions have been raised about whether the broadcaster turned a blind eye to his activities.

Police investigating alleged abuse by Savile opened a criminal inquiry last week, saying more than 200 potential victims had come forward since an investigation by another British TV channel claimed he had preyed on children for decades.

Rival commercial channel ITV broadcast interviews with women who said Savile abused them when they were as young as 12, sometimes on BBC premises.

Entwistle is due to appear before parliament on Tuesday (October 23) to answer what are likely to be tough questions about the case.

The BBC has launched two independent reviews of the allegations, one looking into Savile's actions and another to investigate why the Newsnight report was shelved.

It has not commented officially on the case, saying it would be inappropriate to say anything until the reviews had been concluded.